Category Archives: Classes

What is a Good Life?

On three Thursday evenings—September 21, 28 and October 5 at 7:15pm—Berkeley Zen Center is pleased to host Shaykh Yassir Chadly in dialogue with Hozan about “a good life” in our respective Sufi and Zen traditions.

Please register at

Yassir is a Sufi imam, born in Morocco, ministering to Bay Area Islamic communities for many years. From 2002 to 2017 he taught Islamic and Sufi studies at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union. Yassir and Hozan have been good friends since the 90s, sharing the music and wisdom of our spiritual paths. Yassir has visited and lectured at BZC several times. His warm-hearted presence is uplifting.

We can accommodate up to 35 people in the zendo itself (vaccination card required), and we will be live-streaming on Zoom as well. The suggested class fee is $30 (or whatever you can afford). For further information, contact class coordinator Ryushin Andrea Thach



Many Communities, One Sangha – Sign Up Now

We are happy to invite all BZC members to participate in the next year of Many Communities, One Sangha, including those who have already taken part in the first session and would like to continue.  The program is offered in hybrid form (both online and in person).  There is a fee of $150 for new participants, which is the actual cost of the materials.  Returning participants are encouraged to provide dana (voluntary donation) for Rhonda’s work with us.  No one will be excluded because of inability to pay or donate.

The link to the form to sign up is:

The program consists of one meeting a month over ten months:  five meetings with Rhonda, on Saturday afternoon after our usual program with all participants, alternating with five meetings in smaller discussion groups.  While the materials will be the same as those for the first year, we are folding in the suggestions gathered during the first year to streamline and place emphasis on participation and discussion. Each meeting is two to two-and-a-half hours.  Outside reading and watching video segments are additional time commitments of about 5 hours (or less) a month.

We are delighted to announce that Prof. Rhonda Magee will continue to work with us for the coming year 2023-2024.  Rhonda is a lay entrusted teacher in the Soto Zen lineage and law professor at UCSF Law School.  She is the author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness.  This is an extraordinary opportunity to come together, to listen, learn, and find a spacious venue for conversations that can be difficult.  The accompanying materials were developed in coordination between East Bay Meditation Center and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, led by Mushim Ikeda, Crystal Johnson, and Rhonda Magee.

Questions or difficulties with the form?  Contact Mary Duryee,

Questions about the program? Contact Sonia Tamez, or Mary Duryee.

The MCOS coordinating committee:  Karen Sundheim, Heather Sarantis, Luminous Heart, Judy Fleischman, Gerry Oliva, Mary Duryee

Upcoming Class on Pali Suttas

“Enlightenment Stories from the Pali Canon,” taught by Laurie Senauke, will be offered on 3 Monday nights in August (8/7, 8/14, and 8/21) in the online zendo (only), from 7:15 to 8:45 pm.  Here’s the link to sign up.

The Pali Suttas are considered the earliest teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, memorized by the monks and passed on through word of mouth for several generations before being written down.

This body of literature includes many different kinds of teachings – one very accessible type is when the Buddha addresses lay people whom he meets serendipitously on his travels.  Some historical background will be presented, but the main time of the class will be reading the suttas (one per class) aloud and sharing our responses.

The suggested donation is $30, or whatever you can afford. Note that this class will be online only.

Many Communities, One Sangha: Community-of-Practice Program

“Many Communities, One Sangha: Exploring the Realities of Equity and Inclusion” is a curriculum which guides an inquiry for us, in small groups, to articulate our values and explore our desires and ways to implement the goals we determine together. It is not a top-down training, but rather a grassroots program designed to help us decide together how we proceed. The principal teachers of the curriculum are Mushim Ikeda, Rhonda Magee, and Crystal Johnson, who many of you may know.
Rhonda Magee, one of the program’s developers, will be providing experiential opportunities to acquire and practice the skills we have learned. Prof. Magee is also the author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communi­ties Through Mindfulness. She is a Dharma Holder in the Soto tradition.
Participants must sign up by September 15, 2022 and commit to two hours a month over 11 months. This will consist of five sessions of videos, readings, and small, ongoing group discussions, alternating with five sessions with Rhonda Magee. We hope to have in-person meetings, without excluding those who are participating from a distance, through a hybrid option. The cost is $150 per person, with scholarships and a sliding scale. Participation limit is 30 people (the number we can fit in- person in the zendo). If demand exceeds capacity, we will offer it again.
Here is the link to sign-up:
If you have questions about the program,  contact Karen Sundheim (; Sonia Tamez (510-502-1425); or Gerry Oliva ( If you have any questions about signing up, contact Mary Duryee ( More info will be on the website.

—Mary Duryee, on behalf of the culture change committee (Judy Fleischman, Hanna Meara, Gerry Oliva, Hozan Alan Senauke, Mauro Sifuentes, Karen Sundheim, Sonia Tamez, and Penelope Thompson).

Coming-of-Age Program

We are excited to have your child join us for the 2022-2023 Coming of Age program this year. I have included the schedule below to remind you of our meeting dates. Please reserve the final retreat date during which we hope you and your child will be able to participate.

  • Initial Orientation – Sunday September 11th 10-12pm
  • Session 2 – Sunday October 16th 10-12pm
  • Session 3 – Sunday November 20th 10-12pm
  • Session 4 – Sunday December 18th 10-12pm
  • Session 5 – Sunday January 8, 2023 10-12pm
  • Session 6 – Sunday February 12th 10-12pm
  • Session 7 – Sunday March 12th 10-12pm
  • Session 8 – Sunday April 16th 10-12pm
  • Session 9 – Sunday May 7th, 10-12pm
  • Closing Half Day Retreat – Sunday June 4th, 10-3pm

Our first meeting will be on September 11th at 10am. At this first meeting we ask that one or both parents attend. It will give you a chance to meet the program leaders and the other parents of the other participants. During the second half of the meeting we will invite the parents to have tea and meet with one of the senior teachers at Berkeley Zen Center who will be able to answer any questions you have about the program.

Please bring a copy of your vaccination card if you have one. If you or your child have any covid symptoms, please stay home even if you test negative the day of our meeting.

For more information, please contact Marie Hopper at

New Koan Class 3/17 – 4/7

Ellen Webb, Ryushin Andrea Thach, and Ron Nestor will present three koans from Thomas Cleary’s translation of The Book of Serenity. This collection of 100 koans or cases is the koan collection most associated with our Soto lineage.We’re aiming for interactive class discussions of these three provocative cases, which can be understood from different points of emphasis. We’ll supply a scanned copy of Cleary’s text and Word files of excellent commentaries by Koun Yamada. For those without printers we will have paper copies available on the bulletin board shelf at BZC.  The Book of Serenity is also available from booksellers and online. The four cases we’ll be working with are case #12, Dizang Planting the Fields, case #20, Dizang’s Nearness, case #36, Master Ma is Unwell, and case #53, Obaku’s “Drinkers”. Studying koans in this way is not the same as the Rinzai practice of working with one’s teacher and trying to embody the koan, so we want to be clear about the difference. However, we have found it to be rich and helpful in clarifying the essential points of Zen practice.


Cost for the series is $40 or what you can afford. More information will be posted on BZC Community Group as we get closer to the dates. All are welcome.

Class on the Three Doors of Liberation

Abbot Hozan will offer a four-session online study on this classic teaching—the Three Doors of Liberation—on Thursday evenings, 7:15 to 8:45, January 13 through February 3, in the Online Zendo.

Zen Master Yoka Genkaku’s Shodoka/Song of Enlightenment begins with this verse:

There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Way, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is the Buddha-nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.

These Zen verses remind us of the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, and Wishlessness. While we have never studied these practices in detail, Sojun gave a rich lecture on them towards the end of his life. They feature prominently in the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh and others in Theravada and Mahayana lineages. More to the point, the Three Doors of Liberation help us see the whole of our life as practice that is easeful, fluid, and ever-changing. Please join us for these classes, which will include study and reflection on our own embodiment of freedom.

The suggested donation is $40 for the series (or $10 per class).  You may donate by check or via the website.  If you donate using the website, click on Sits/Classes and please include a note indicating that you are paying for “Hozan’s Thursday class”.

Resource Links:

Buddhist Women Ancestors Guiding the Way

If you really want to cry for somebody, why not cry for yourself?
Why not cry for all of us — who are just passing through.
Fall on your knees and weep.
Get it all out.
Now get up. You’ve got work to do.

From The First Free Women, Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns

Please join Karen DeCotis, Laurie Senauke, and Susan Marvin for a 4-week class on the women ancestors, with a focus on how they encourage us to continue to practice and awaken together in these challenging times. We will read and discuss stories that offer the inspiration of their presence in our very own lives.

Classes are 4 Mondays – November 16, 23, 30, and December 7 from 7:30—8:30 in the Online Zendo.

We extend a warm welcome to anyone who would like to attend the series or individual evenings. Enrollment is open to all; no need to sign up.

Donations for our class offerings support BZC’s programs; your discretionary amount is greatly appreciated. Donations by check to BZC or with PayPal using the CLASSES tab on our Donation Page.

More Class Materials

List of women ancestors chanted at Berkeley Zen Center
Background material on BZC’s list of women ancestors

Recommended Reading

(Note: this is just a brief selection of the many books available by and about Women in Buddhism)
Books about Women Ancestors

Women of the Way, Sallie Tisdale
The Hidden Lamp, Ed by Florence Caplow & Susan Moon
Daughters of Emptiness, Beata Grant
Women Poets of China, Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung
Zen Women, Beyond Tea-Ladies, Iron Maiden’s & Macho Masters, Grace Schireson
The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nun, Matty Weingast
First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening, Susan Murcott

Books by Contemporary Women Buddhist Teachers

Bringing Zen Home, the Healing Heart of Japanese Women’s Rituals, Paula Arai
Subtle Sound, Maureen Stuart
The Way of Tenderness, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
A Bigger Sky, Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism, Pamela Weiss
A White Tea Bowl, Mitsu Suzuki

The Subtle & Poetic Teaching of Tung-shan

Two Mondays—August 24 and 31, from 7 to 8:15pm

Ross Blum will present a two-session class on this 9th century Chinese Zen teacher from whom our Soto School derives its name. At our first meeting we’ll study a selection of stories compiled in The Record of Tung-shan translated by William Powell. In our second class we’ll explore the “Five Positions,” his description of the unfolding of a Zen student’s practice within the world of form and emptiness as it relates to our life today. See below for class materials.

While Dōgen Zenji eschewed systems or techniques in practice, we’ll see that he had absorbed this 400 year-old ancestor’s system when composing Genjokoan, a seminal fascicle in Shobogenzō.

The class will be held in BZC’s Online Zendo and is open to all; no need to register.

Class offering by donation supports BZC’s programs. Your discretionary amount is greatly appreciated.  Donations by check to BZC or with PayPal using the Classes tab on our Donation Page .

Class Materials

Here’s a PDF of the text we’ll be using. and the associated stories we’ll review: 1, 4, 8, 9, 11, 18, 30, 49, 56, 71, 74, 78, 92, 98, 102 and 103.
Two versions of the Five Positions
Outside Sojun Roshi’s office Sweetpea sits upright on the third position
and then embodies both the fourth and fifth positions